Stephan Kotas

Prague born photographer, Stephan embodies the word versatile. He traveled the globe since a young age documenting adventures, shooting places and faces he met along the way. Finally, he found his home in Bali but still travels worldwide for assignments. He specializes in fashion and art photography, commercial assignments and creative directing. His current artwork is Colodian Wet Photography.

Why wet plate photography ?
Because I love the fact that I get to create my images by hand in a dark room and not in front of a computer screen. I work with a mahagony wood large format camera which is from 1910 and my lens is more than 140 yrs old.

Can you tell us more about the creation procces behind your art work ?
Wet plate process is maybe the most complicated of all photography techniques. It took me about 3 years of studying to start getting successful images, and there is still a very long way for me to be able to say that I mastered the technique. I had to learn not only the process itself but also studied chemistry. For the photography process itself, wet plate images are usually done on glass (ambrotypes) or alluminium plates (tintypes). The plate is first coated with chemicals and sensitized in a dark room under a safe light. Meanwhile we get a model ready in front of the camera, once focused the model cannot move. I’ll go back to the dark room, bring the plate and put it into camera to make it expose. The chemicals are much less sensitive to light than modern film or digital medium so the exposure times are very long, at least several seconds. The model must stay very still not to get blurry. That’s why when you look at old photographs from the past, the people usually stay in a very “stiff” positions as they need to hold pose for at least 10-20 seconds. So the technique requires quite some skill from the model as well. After exposure I need to take the plate back to the darkroom to develop it and fix it. Then it needs to dry and be coated in varnish. After varnishing the images is safely sealed and will stay unchanged for hundreds of years!

Where or what do your object come from?
This technique is best for making portraits or shooting still scenes. I focus on art portraits of ordinary people, models, balinese dancers, or whoever I find inspiring. I also shoot private portraits for individuals, families or wedding couples.

If you could pick one of your art works, which one do you like the most ?
I like the image of Putu Bulan, a beautiful balinese girl. Its one of the first photographs I managed to successfully develop in Bali. Which makes it one of the first wet plate tintypes ever made in Indonesia!

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